Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Because of final grade deadlines and a quick Mother's Day trip to see my mama, I haven't had time to brag about my Barley girl's recent success, but it was a huge milestone for us, so I'm taking the time to brag now!

Last week was week six of agility, and you know what that means: running a mini-course in class.  As I've mentioned before, this is not Barley's forte.  While she's gotten better over the last several weeks, she still struggles with patiently waiting her turn.  I was extra anxious about our class because on the way out the car my neighbor's little grandbaby ran up to Barley and threw his arms around her--who knew someone who hasn't been walking very long could move so fast?!  The only thing I could do was put Barley in a headlock so she couldn't get to his cute little face until my neighbor could get the kid (I have since learned to go outside with pockets full of cheerios so Barley can be distracted)--Barley's never hurt a kid before, but she gets nervous around things that are small and move quickly without letting her herd them, so we've got very clear rules for the neighborhood kids when they want to pet her: she has to sit, they have put down their bikes or scooters and walk slowly up to her, then they have to pet her one at a time without putting their faces in her face while I shove treats down her throat.  After about 30 seconds, we move on with our lives.  Barley can only be good for so long, so I was afraid that by not eating the little boy she'd used up all of her good behavior for the day.

My fears were for naught.  We did a crazy course during class, so there was plenty of opportunity for a crazy dog.
16 obstacles!  Woah!
The entire course had six obstacles--lots of jumps (including a tire jump), the dog walk, and a tunnel.  For the first part of class, we did the first half of the course.  For a second, when it was time to go into the tunnel, Barley decided to bolt, but she came back and we did the course well.  Then we learned the second half.  Barley was with me the whole time.  We even made it through 4 obstacles without reinforcing come to hand with a treat!  Woo!  Then we put the whole course together and did all 16 obstacles without incident.  (I even remembered where we were supposed to go for the whole course!)

The real success wasn't the course, though.  The real success was our off-course behavior.  If you recall, Barley has really struggled with waiting her turn on the course in the past.  Last week, she was perfect.  She stayed in a down beside my chair the entire time we were waiting for turns (with some treats every few minutes, of course).  Every now and then, she'd even forget she was excited and slip out of sphinx position.  I knew she was being good, but I was surprised when our trainer called attention to her behavior.  While other dogs were pacing and barking, Barley was lying calmly beside the chair and our trainer said "Do you see what Barley's doing?  That's what every dog should be doing.  Barley is relaxed, and she couldn't do this two months ago, so look how great she's doing."  She even called her an example of doggie zen (I don't know that I'd go that far, but we'll take it).  One of the dad's of the barking dogs commented on how it was only because Barley was getting treats, but our trainer was not letting him take our victory away from us--she pointed out that being relaxed around other dogs was extremely hard for Barley and that's how you train and that you work up to using fewer and fewer.  She said her dog will wait in a down beside her chair for 15 minutes without a treat, so now Barley and I will be building to that.

I was so stinkin' proud I could have cried.  In fact, my eyes did tear up a little bit when we got in the car and I hugged my pup.  I know how far my dog has come, my family knows how far she's come, but it was so validating to have someone who only sees us once a week in a class with several other students in it see a change in my pup.  I know that we still have a long road ahead of us and that we'll always be working on her reactions to other dogs, but this was a huge moment for us and I could not be prouder of my baby girl.

Since last week was finals week, I had a different schedule than usual and didn't have to go to campus at all on Tuesday.  I decided my Barley had earned a celebratory walk at the Arboretum, so we ventured out to enjoy the day.

Things were in bloom!
This crabapple was a nice shady place to rest before hopping back in the car.
I did something to ankle, so I wasn't up for our usual hike that involves a billion stairs, but we had a great 3.5 mile walk through the rhododendron garden, the crabapple collection, and around the ponds between the two.  The sprinklers were on in the rhododendron garden, so it kept us nice and cool for the whole walk!

Barley's success continued in class again this week.  We're doing one more session of intro and then most likely moving up to beginning agility--our trainer said that if Barley would follow the rules, we could move up now, but that the trainer for beginning is tough (if she's tougher than our intro instructor, we're in trouble!!) so if Barley wouldn't follow the rules, she'd say no.  We decided to do one more intro session; it's only 5 weeks long with Memorial Day, so that gives us a few weeks of summer to get really focused and responsive and then we'll move up.

This Monday, we were back to strengthening our skills.  I'm finally getting the hang of things--and the little maps and charts and diagrams are finally starting to make sense.  I'm sure I'll feel like I'm back at square one when we move up, but for now, I'm feeling confident and that makes me a lot more confident that I can help my dog stay relaxed during class.

I like that the little dog looks like Barley.
Now that we're officially on summer vacation, we can relax and pick up where we left off with Doggin' Cleveland when the weather quit cooperating with good adventuring weather.  Today, though, we went to our good old state park and walked a couple miles before romping on the beach.  We had real summer vacation weather today with highs close to 80, so my pup needed a quick splash in the lake today.

It was really windy! Look at those ears!
It wouldn't be a day at the beach without chomping the water.
This picture does not do this dead fish justice. It was huge. Like bigger than Soth.  I was too grossed out to get a closer picture, but too fascinated to not take a picture.
 I hope that Mother Nature has helped Spring find her way to everyone's houses by now--I was worried on Monday when it was 50 degrees, but I'm trying to believe she's here to stay now!

1 comment:

  1. I'm so proud of my baby girl! She has come a long way and that one guy was just jelly that is dog wasn't cooperating so well. I'm glad you have somebody who has her back! We're finally getting summer weather, too! Woohoo!